As American service members continue ten more years of commitment to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, we cannot help but think:
We are not alone in this fight.
What amazes me most, however, is along my adventure I’ve met people and civilian organizations that share my same vision.
Thank you so much OPERATION GRATITUDE!
I first encountered Operation Gratitude on the fallow plains of southern Afghanistan after a long, back-breaking patrol. I returned to my patrol base to find my Marines bright-eyed and full of smiles; something was amiss from our drudging normalcy.
For the first time in months, and the first time ever for a handful of my Marines, we received packages from another world—home.
My heart immediately melted from the kindness shown by the charity of Operation Gratitude. For the first time since departing home, my Marines changed their socks, ate an American snack, read a supportive letter, and laughed at a child’s innocent bravado, such as the letter (pictured, right) from the American boy named Austin who who wished us a happy New Year and wrote that he hoped we would “sevive the whore.”
Those care packages forever increased our morale, changed our outlook, and reset our resolve.
Words cannot express our gratitude as you continue to walk by our side while we continue this fight for ten more years. Thanks again, Operation Gratitude. My men and I still need every bit of your support.
Editor’s Note: Our country has commited to involvement in Afghanistan for the next ten years – Operation Gratitude’s commitment is to continue our mission as long as any American service member is deployed in a hostile region. Please stick with us…Will you please help us support these heroes? Every donation of $15 pays for our shipping and assembly costs to send another care package — consider making an online donation today: DONATE NOW)
Also — letters like young Austin’s are treasured by the troops who receive them. Writing letters is a way for everyone — young and old! — to be involved supporting our brave military: Write a Letter Today.
THANK YOU for your generous support!
We are excited to announce a strategic new partnership with veteran-focused disaster relief organization Team Rubicon to send “First Responder Kits” to volunteers assisting with natural disaster and crisis relief efforts world-wide.
The “First Responder Kits” (FR Kits) will be assembled at our headquarters in Van Nuys, CA and shipped to every Team Rubicon volunteer across the country. Each FR Kit will contain an assortment of useful, donated items placed in an Operation Gratitude drawstring backpack for easy transport at a moment’s notice.
Most of the Team Rubicon volunteers are recent U.S. Military veterans. “We sent care packages and supported these heroic service members while they were deployed overseas in combat zones,” says Operation Gratitude founder, Carolyn Blashek. “Now that they are serving our country and the world by assisting with natural disasters and humanitarian relief, we will continue to express our deep appreciation and respect to them through our First Responder Kits.”
Team Rubicon co-founder William McNulty agrees that the partnership between the two organizations makes perfect sense: “Team Rubicon engages U.S. military veterans, many returning home after fighting ten years of war, and offers a renewed sense of purpose for their skills and experiences,” he said. “The FR Kits will provide our volunteers with essential gear as well as morale-boosting encouragement from fellow Americans who are grateful for their continued service.” (Watch the recent CNN story about Team Rubicon and its co-founder Jake Wood on YouTube here: CNN Hero: Jake Wood.)
As with our other programs, we will rely on the generosity of the American people — individuals and corporate sponsors — to supply, assemble and ship the initial 5,000 FR Kits by the end of June, 2012.
We are seeking both product donations to fill the FR Kits as well as financial donations to pay our assembly and shipping costs of $75,000.
So — by now you may be wondering: How can I help? We are so glad you asked!
The following is our “Wish List” for items we need for the FR Kits: AA and AAA batteries; quick-drying, medium-sized towels; energy bars; sporks (combination utensil/tool); heavy work gloves (size Large); head lamps; safety glasses; all-weather spiral notebooks; pens; Leatherman-style tools; Nalgene water bottles and handmade Paracord “Survival” Bracelets. (See a Paracord Bracelet pictured, left. Learn more about them here: How to Make a Paracord Bracelet.)
Please consider organizing a “collection drive” to gather FR Kit items for us. (Find an informational flyer about “How to Host a Collection Drive” on our website: http://www.operationgratitude.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/CollectionDrive.pdf) Product donations may be shipped to:
Operation Gratitude/California Army National Guard
17330 Victory Boulevard
Van Nuys, CA 91406
Attn: First Responder Program
Note: If you want confirmation of delivery on your shipments of item donations prior to receipt of our acknowledgment letter (allow up to 12 weeks), please use the tracking system provided by your shipper.
Financial donations are welcome and may be made online: https://www.operationgratitude.com/donate/
Or by check payable to Operation Gratitude and mailed to:
16444 Refugio Road
Encino, CA 91436
In keeping with our mission of providing “hands-on” opportunities to say “Thank You” to our nation’s heroes, we encourage our supporters all over the country to make Paracord “Survival” Bracelets to include in each First Responder Kit, as well as in the care packages to deployed troops.
More information and instructions can be found here: How to Make a Paracord Bracelet.
Thank you for your generous support to make all this possible!
Many U.S. Military veterans and their families are facing extraordinary financial hardships during this time of worldwide economic upheavals. In late 2011 Businessweek reported that the job crisis is dire, citing for example that the youngest of veterans, aged 18 to 24, had a shocking 30.4 percent jobless rate in October, way up from 18.4 percent a year earlier.
Joblessness often leads to homelessness and our veterans are not immune from this frightening reality.
According to the Veterans Administration: “Current population estimates suggest that about 107,000 veterans (male and female) are homeless on any given night and perhaps twice as many experience homelessness at some point during the course of a year. Many other veterans are considered near homeless or at risk because of their poverty, lack of support from family and friends, and dismal living conditions…”
While we can’t solve all the problems our veterans and their families might face, we want to offer support and encouragement where we are able. For the past several months, in cooperation with the leadership and chaplain corps of National Guard units nationwide, Operation Gratitude has assembled and distributed thousands of Military Family Care Packages (MFCPs) to Soldiers who cannot find civilian jobs and/or who are homeless, living in cars.
Additionally, MFCPs have been delivered to homeless veterans organizations and VA hospitals.
These care packages contain donated non-perishable food; personal hygiene products (shampoo, conditioner, lotion, etc.); household items (soaps, detergent, etc.); gift cards to stores like Target, Walmart, CVS and Walgreens; toys for children; clothing and more, valued at over $100 per package.
With generous assistance from our corporate sponsors and individual donors, we will continue to support deployed troops serving in combat zones and on Navy ships. We will also continue helping veterans and military families — with MFCPs, Battalion Buddy packages and Wounded Warrior packages — as long as there is a need.
Please consider joining our efforts to support these heroes who have selflessly given so much of themselves fighting for our country. Online financial donations may be made here: Donate Now.
For more specific information regarding the types of in-kind donations we accept for the MFCPs, please send an email inquiry to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please take a few moments to read this heartwarming and inspiring story from Operation Gratitude volunteer Kelly South:
Just before Christmas of 2010, I had been looking for a way to volunteer my time. A friend told me about Operation Gratitude, and what they do to support our military men and women. I had never heard of this group, but as I read information on the home page, I knew I had found the right place. I come from a family that has sent countless men and women into battle, and it seemed like a perfect fit for me.
As I looked over the list of projects to volunteer for, I began to become a bit discouraged because many of them required a lot more physical movement than I could do. I suffer from Fibromyalgia, and my days are gauged by how much pain I will have to face every time I roll out of bed. But as I read further, I came upon the link for crocheting and knitting.
That link would help make 2011 a very special year for me, and for over a thousand of our troops.
Now I had never tried to crochet or knit, but I’m a somewhat intelligent person and figured it just couldn’t be that hard to learn. My only concern would be my hands. How could I do this, when I have to have steroids injected into all of my knuckles every 12 weeks to take down the swelling and pain? Would I be able to push through the pain? I have always said that I would not allow this disease to rule my life, and I was determined to do my best. So, I headed off to You Tube, and watched some videos about how to crochet.
After watching videos for a solid 10 minutes, I decided to give it a try. The first scarf I made took almost six hours to complete — this was going to be a lot harder than I had thought! I decided to have another go at it to see if I could do better, and the second one only took two hours. By the time I made my 10th, I was down to just 45 minutes for each scarf, and I began formulating a plan in my head. If I could make just two or three a day, I might be able to make 700 scarves by the time they would need to be delivered. And that crazy idea made 2011 one of the most satisfying years of my life.
Every day, no matter how I felt, I crocheted. I began to realize that the crocheting was delaying the need for my shots, and actually helped with my overall pain. The more focused I became, the better I felt. Granted, there were days when I couldn’t even open a bottle of water because my hands were so swollen and painful, but still I crocheted. I knew what our troops faced every single day in the war zones, and I knew that my pain would not stop me from honoring them.
Month after month I crocheted, and at the beginning of August, I finally sat down and did a count. To my utter amazement, I had not only made 700, but I had actually made more. I couldn’t believe I met my goal even faster than I ever imagined. As I told my family and friends that I passed 700, they asked how it felt to be done with my project. What they didn’t know was that I still had time before they needed to be delivered, and that I had already set my new target goal to 1000. Off I went.
I made my delivery on November 5th, and with me were my main supporters: My friend Irene Figueroa, who wrote over 1000 letters to attach to all of my scarves. Without her, I would have never been able to crochet as much as I did. If I had had to sit and write those letters, I doubt I would have even made my first goal. My partner Ruth Norris, who helped me pay for the $1500 of yarn and was my biggest cheerleader. And finally, my friend Carol Scott, who allowed me to store the scarves in her garage. I also received yarn and gift cards from countless friends and family to help offset some of the cost.
On the day of delivery, we were asked to transfer the scarves from my tubs to those belonging to Operation Gratitude. It took all four of us, plus a dozen Girl Scouts, almost 45 minutes to get the job done! As we moved them we did a count, and to my utter dismay I had only made 991 scarves and hats. I was just nine short of my goal and not happy about it. Those nine scarves bothered me so much that I returned two weeks later with 15 more scarves, and the feeling of accomplishment finally hit.
I had really done it. I had made my goal. The pain went away, and all I felt was joy. I knew that over a thousand of our men and women in uniform would have that moment of home for the holidays. They would know that they were not forgotten by those of us at home, and how much we truly appreciated all they had sacrificed for us. My biggest hope is that for those few short moments home wasn’t quite so far away.
I have been asked why I would do so much for people I don’t know…Why would someone in my condition work so hard and spend so much? Why would I take a year of my life and crochet? Why do so many?
It’s because of what our military does for us. Day in, and day out, they make the ultimate sacrifice and ask nothing in return. They are as selfless as I would strive to be. They are the people we should look up to, and thank each and every single day, for the freedoms we all share.
When people ask those questions of me, my answer back to them will always be the same: “Why wouldn’t I?” –submitted by Kelly South
THANK YOU, Kelly!!
MORE RESOURCES & INSPIRATION:
Learn How to Crochet
Learn How to Knit
Scarf, Hat, Cool-Tie Project Details: Materials, Size, Patterns
Making Scarves: How To’s and Tips!
Knitting at 98! Meet Joan Mazzarelli!
Have YARN, but no TIME to make scarves/hats? We have volunteers like Kelly who would appreciate donations of yarn to help them continue their projects! Please let us know if you would like to contribute in this way to our Scarves for Troops Program! Send an email to email@example.com. THANK YOU!
To Girl Scout and Brownie Troops Across the U.S.A.:
We are grateful for the Girl Scout and Brownie troops that help us send Girl Scout cookies to our courageous deployed troops. We enjoy working with the Girl Scouts during their Cookie Pre-Sales and Booth Sales to ensure that we can include one or two boxes of Girl Scout cookies in each of the 100,000+ Care Packages we send out during our Patriotic Drive in the Spring and our Holiday Drive in the Fall-Winter.
To increase your sales, and bring smiles to the service members deployed overseas, you can suggest that buyers purchase extra boxes to be donated to the troops. Once you have collected all the donated boxes, please deliver or ship them to Operation Gratitude and we will take care of sending them overseas in our individually addressed care packages.
In the past, our recipients have enjoyed the personal notes that the Girl Scouts (or the donors) have attached to the boxes (2″x 4″ mailing labels work best), and we encourage you to do that again. Please be sure the notes are visible for screening, are addressed generically (Dear Brave One, Dear Hero, etc.), and are upbeat and positive. Please see our Letter Writing flyer for more information: LETTER WRITING
Upon a donor’s request, we will provide an Operation Gratitude acknowledgment for an individual donation of 50 boxes or more. If donors request a receipt from Operation Gratitude, we recommend that you have a triplicate receipt book–give one copy to the customer; keep one copy for your records and send the third copy to us so that we can send an acknowledgment to the buyer. Please be sure to include the donor’s name and full mailing address on the receipt. Please mail the receipts (but NOT the cookies) to:
16444 Refugio Road
Encino, CA 91436
While we know that Thin Mints and Peanut Butter Patties are extremely popular, we respectfully request that you do not send us those varieties, as we cannot send chocolate products to the desert during the summer. The Caramel Delites (or their equivalent) are fine.
NOTE: If your Girl Scout Council is working directly with Operation Gratitude, please check with your Gift of Caring representative for any special information pertaining to your regional program.
You might also want to reference our “10 Ways to Help” flyer and our “Troops to Troops” flyer, too. If you modify the flyers in any way, please email them to us first for approval before making copies — firstname.lastname@example.org. We can also provide black and white versions of the flyers and additional photos of troops with their Girl Scout cookies.
Please plan to deliver or ship the cookies between March 12 and May 21 for the Patriotic Drive and September 15 and December 5 for the Holiday Drive. Please ship cookies to:
Operation Gratitude/California Army National Guard
17330 Victory Boulevard
Van Nuys, CA 91406
ATTN: Girl Scout Cookies
Phone: 262-OPGRAT-1 (262-674-7281)
Depending on the number of boxes ordered, your cookie supplier may be willing to ship directly to us. Please contact them for details. For large orders to be delivered by freight, please have the shipper contact Rich Hernandez for delivery arrangements.
Find helpful shipping tips, cost-saving ideas and important information here: SHIPPING & DONATION INFO.
For in-person delivery, we will accept donations at the armory during our Volunteer Hours of Operation.
Please print and fill out our Donation Form and send it with your cookies so we can mail a letter of acknowledgment and appreciation to your troop. If you want confirmation of delivery on your shipments of item donations prior to receipt of our acknowledgment letter, please use the tracking system provided by your shipper.
For those Girl Scout troops located in the Southern California region, we welcome volunteers ages 12 and up to participate in the assembling of packages at our facility. If your troop is interested in participating, please contact our Volunteer Coordinator, Penny, at: email@example.com and be sure to include “Operation Gratitude” in the subject line. The Volunteer schedule and general information can be found here: http://www.operationgratitude.com/volunteer/volunteer-info-schedule/
We are very appreciative of all your efforts on behalf of our brave U.S. Military Service members. As you can see, we need a LOT of boxes of Girl Scout cookies to meet our goal of one or two boxes in each of the 100,000+ Operation Gratitude packages per year. Please pass our information on to all your Girl Scout contacts and encourage them to work with us as well!
THANK YOU for your support!
Our care packages certainly aren’t meant to annoy the recipients, but somehow we managed to do just that recently:
I am writing this a week before Christmas, from ‘an undisclosed location in southwest Asia’. As I’m writing this, I am a bit annoyed at your organization. Do you have any idea how hard it is to keep up the façade of a tough old Army First Sergeant with tears streaming down your face?
When I arrived on duty this morning, I was greeted by a package on my desk from Operation Gratitude. I am happy to say this package was not the first of this type that my Soldiers and I have received over the past few months. Each time, I am TOTALLY overwhelmed at the support shown to us, complete strangers, by various individuals and groups of individuals, also complete strangers. If ever there is doubt where the true beauty and strength of our country lies, it’s in men and women such as those comprising your organization, who readily and unselfishly give of themselves to help others.
I opened the package, more out of curiosity than out of need for the items contained therein. On top, I found a stack of cards and notes and your magazine. As I started reading the notes…I simply cannot describe the feelings. I was completely overwhelmed at the expressions of support, appreciation and well-wishes. The cards and notes from children and young people were especially touching as I realize they represent future generations of Americans…and realize they are being raised to recognize, understand, and appreciate important concepts such as sacrifice, courage and honor.
As I read your letter in the beginning of the magazine, I was deeply touched that you not only felt the initial compassion when you encountered that Soldier returning to the ‘war zone’… but that you invested the time, expense, interest, dedication, passion and personal and family sacrifice to do something about it…and something that was/is so meaningful to so many.
I think perhaps the most touching thing of all is to see the pictures of the volunteers of your organization…people from all walks of life…multiple generations…united by a love for our country and a dedication to purpose. Trust me when I say, the feelings are indescribable.
Thank you so much for your dedication. A BIG THANK YOU to your people and your organization for all of the hope and renewed faith you distribute with your packages. The physical items contained in the packages are much appreciated, but the tremendous intangibles contained within are priceless. I truly hope and pray that our Lord will bless each and every one of you during this holiday season…May each of you experience an extra measure of peace and joy during this festive time, knowing the smiles that you have spread to the most remote and unsettled of regions.
With warmest regards this holiday season,
Thank YOU, 1SG H., and all who serve alongside you! We are honored to be able to support you by sending care packages filled with goodies, letters, thanks and love from home!
And to those of you on the Home Front who have made this all possible — the volunteers, donors, knitters, letter writers, recyclers, collectors and supporters — our deepest thanks to each and every one of you. We could go on and on singing your praises and expressing our gratitude to you…but we feel “Annoyed Army First Sergeant” says it best, so we say: “Ditto that!”
All our best wishes for a very blessed, healthy and peaceful New Year to one and all! We look forward to continuing this journey with you in 2012!
(Note: To receive email notices regarding new Operation Gratitude blog posts as they are published, please subscribe via the link to the right.)
You can help boost the morale of our military troops when you turn that unwanted car into a tax write-off by donating it to Cars for U.S. Troops! You will avoid the hassles of selling a car, skip paying hefty repair bills, free up space in your garage…and maybe best of all: Your charitable donations can make a big difference in the lives of deployed U.S. service members.
Cars for U.S. Troops will:
- Pick up your vehicle at your home or workplace whether it is running or not.
- Handle ALL the paperwork: Tax receipt, DMV and Smog Check.
- Give you an IRS tax receipt for your records.
You receive a full IRS tax deduction for the value of the vehicle and Operation Gratitude receives proceeds from the sale! Cars for U.S. Troops has developed the largest resale network in the vehicle donation industry, so it is a win-win for our supporters and our charity!
What kinds of vehicles are accepted?
- Jet Ski
- Heavy Equipment
Want to know more? Call or email Cars for U.S. Troops — seven days a week! Check out the answers to Frequently Asked Questions. (We have a car donation flyer with info, too!)You can fill out a Donation Form online, or call 800-333-0606 to make arrangements for your quick and easy donation.
Thank you for your generous support!
Pinger, the company behind the innovative Textfree apps for iOS and Android that make texting and mobile calling free, today announced its partnership with Operation Gratitude and a donation pledge of up to $5,000 in recognition of Veterans Day:
For every new download of the Pinger Textfree and Pinger Textfree with Voice apps as well as any new user sign up for Pinger Textfree Web between November 1 and Veterans Day on November 11, Pinger will donate $1.00 to Operation Gratitude to support its care package programs.
The $5,000 donation from Pinger will fund over 330 new care packages to be shipped, just in time for the holiday season.
Pinger’s Textfree apps enable military personnel to choose their own local U.S. phone number to send and receive texts, picture messages and talk for free to friends and family in the States from anywhere in the world they are deployed.
We think this is great! With this donation, we will be able to further our goal to send even more care packages to deployed troops, something we know is an important way to help keep them connected to those who support and care for them back home.
Visit www.pinger.com/gratitude to learn more about the program and to download the apps.
Please visit the Operation Gratitude website to learn about MORE ways you can help support deployed troops! THANK YOU!
On October 15, with the help of hundreds of enthusiastic volunteers, we assembled and shipped the 700,000th individually-addressed Operation Gratitude care package! Such an exciting day — but there wasn’t time for us to celebrate for long, because we still have another 50,000 care packages to go before the 2011 Holiday Drive ends on December 17.
Yes — you read that right: Another 50,000 care packages to go!
What can you do to help? If you knit or crochet, we’d really appreciate it if you would use your time and talent to make some scarves or hats to keep the troops warm in the coming cold winter months. (Yes, it gets cold — and even snows! – in Afghanistan and other places where our military personnel are serving!) Please find more information here: Scarves for Troops Project. And you can also find important Donation and Shipping Information here on our blog, too!
Not everyone knows how to knit or crochet, but we’re counting on all of you to pitch in with letters of thanks! We try to include at least three or four cards and letters in each care package, so if you do the math — we need another 150,000 – 200,000 more letters for the next 50,000 care packages we will assemble and ship this year. We hope you will help out and write to the troops using these important guidelines:
- No stamps or envelopes are needed. Please avoid glitter.
- Sample salutations include: Dear Service Member, Dear American Hero, Dear Brave One — generic, instead of “Dear Soldier” or “Dear Sailor” because your letter may end up going to a Marine or an Airman!
- Avoid politics and religion; keep the message upbeat and positive.
- Talk about yourself; ask questions (not about death/dying); express thanks.
- Please include your own contact information (mail or email) so recipients can choose to reply.
- STUDENTS: Use FIRST Names Only; Adults and Schools may include full name, address and email.
- Handwritten or hand-signed letters or cards are most appreciated. Drawings from kids too young to write are great too!
- All letters will be screened by Operation Gratitude; do not seal if placing in an individual envelope.
- Write as many letters as you can – they will be distributed throughout different Military locations.
- If you do not receive a reply, please be understanding – remember they are in danger and very busy!
Please bundle them together and send your cards and letters to:
17330 Victory Boulevard
Van Nuys, CA 91406
Attn: Letter Writing Program
Want to deliver your letters to us in person? Wonderful! We accept item and letter donations at the armory ONLY during our Volunteer Hours of Operation.
Please check our website for more information and details.
As always, we THANK YOU for your support!
It’s email and letters like these that remind us how important it is that we continue to do what we do to support and thank deployed service members:
Operation Gratitude: My name is SPC R.S. from Boston Massachusetts. I received one of your care packages today and I cannot explain how grateful I am. As you probably hear all the time, being away from home is hard and it’s the little things that actually are a big deal for some soldiers like me. Every single letter brought a smile to my face but the ones that really got me were the letters and homemade cards from the children. They really hit home because I remember writing letters like that for soldiers when I was little. I’ve been in the army for three years now and this care package is probably the greatest thing I have experienced. I don’t have a lot of family or friends who send me things so I am very thankful. A Grateful Soldier, R.S.
- – -
I am the Postal OIC for the ********* Post Office. Yesterday, we had the pleasure of receiving over three triwalls filled with Operation Gratitude boxes. Under the wish of the post CSM, we then distributed those boxes to many happy Soldiers. I know you operate in thanks to us doing our duties in a hostile environment. But, without the care and support of the many thousands of people who you represent, our jobs would be that much more difficult. So in turn, please accept our thanks and gratitude. All our thanks, 1LT J.S.G., Platoon Leader
Care packages filled to capacity with treats, DVDs, phone cards, handmade scarves, hygiene items, socks, CDs, coffee….and more….make a wonderful “morale boosting” difference to the troops who receive them! The added bonus — and often the most treasured items in the box — are the letters from grateful Americans of all ages (but — as R.S. wrote — most especially the children!) who write to say, “THANK YOU for your service!”
We can’t fill the care packages with “Wish List” items or letters of thanks without the generous help of our sponsors, volunteers, supporters and donors from all over the country. It costs Operation Gratitude $15 to assemble and ship ONE box — multiply $15 by 100,000 care packages — that’s $1.5 MILLION DOLLARS we need to cover our expenses each year!
Can you help? Online financial donations may be made here. Information about where to send checks by mail is here. All other donation and shipping instructions as well as helpful tips may be found here.
Operation Gratitude is approved by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization. All donations are tax-deductible to the extent provided by law. (Read our Financial Statements.)
When you join in to support our patriotic cause, you become a member of our extended family — a dedicated group of “Heroes at Home“ — like the precious volunteers in this news report!
We thank you…and all the service members who will benefit from your kindness thank you as well!
Financial Donations may be mailed to:
16444 Refugio Road
Encino, CA 91436